Surely the best selfie ever? Image: Tim Peake / Twitter

From spacewalks to #spacerocks

Tim Peake blasted off from Earth on the 15th December, and after being on the International Space Station (ISS) for just over one and a half months has orbited the Earth almost 500 times. He’s only partway through his six month mission but has accomplished much already; here’s a rundown of his highlights so far….

Outreach is a big part of Tim Peake’s Principia mission, and already he has been directly interacting with school children. On the 8th January students from a school in St Albans made UK history when they were able to call him using an amateur radio station whilst the ISS passed over the UK. They were able to ask him several questions, and there are hopes that other schools will have the opportunity to do the same in the future. There are also plans for children to talk to him live when he calls a primary school in Wilmslow. Tim plans to demonstrate some science experiments that the children can then copy, and also answer some of the thousands of questions students have asked him.

Hello, is this planet Earth?

However, Tim Peake has encountered a couple of problems when trying to call Earth himself; he publicly apologised on Twitter after calling a stranger by accident and saying, “Hello, is this planet Earth?” In addition to this, a few days earlier he tried to call his parents, but they weren’t at home so he was forced to leave a voice mail message! Luckily his parents took the incident in good spirits, and claimed that his message of “Hello, this is your son from the International Space Station” would be staying on their answering machine for a long time!

What a view - Tim's photo of London at night. Image: Tim Peake / Twitter

What a view – Tim’s photo of London at night. Image: Tim Peake / Twitter

He has also been embracing the power of social media, helping to engage people of all ages in his space adventure. Many people have been tweeting him pictures of space related projects that children have been completing, and Tim retweets and replies to many of these messages! The pictures that he has been taking and putting on Twitter are unbelievable, especially the image of an aurora combined with a sunrise, as well as pictures of the Alps, London and Moscow. Another way Tim is interacting with the world using social media is an outreach programme named #spacerocks. This involves Tim tweeting lyrics from some of his favourite songs, and the first person to correctly reply with the song and artist gets one of 75 special #spacerocks patches that he has taken with him.

But what actual science has Tim done? In the last few days he has introduced the “Rocket Science” project, which is a joint project between the UK Space Agency and the Royal Horticultural Society. The project allows school children to become space biologists by comparing the growth of rocket seeds that have been on the ISS to those that remained on Earth, and will be properly launched in March when the rocket seeds will be returned to Earth.

Tim’s most exciting activity to date however is undoubtedly the spacewalk he performed on the 15th January, especially as before his mission he wasn’t sure if he would get the chance to do one. Tim Peake and Tim Kopra (the NASA astronaut who travelled to the ISS with Peake) performed an important extravehicular activity (EVA) to replace part of the system that distributes electricity from the solar panels on the ISS. After around five hours of work, the Tim’s had completed their tasks, along with Tim Peake taking possibly the coolest selfie of all time. With the ISS and the whole of the Earth reflected in his helmet, it is an incredible picture, and truly encapsulates Tim’s aim to get more people engaged  in and excited about science and technology.

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